Broadway Producer to Head NEA

Rocco Landesman likely to shake up sleepy arts endowment
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2009 6:45 AM CDT
Actress Kate Burton and Honoree Rocco Landesman attend The Actors Fund of America annual gala at Cipriani's 42nd Street on May 8, 2006 in New York City.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The White House has nominated Rocco Landesman, a Broadway producer behind hits such as Angels in America and The Producers, as the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, reports the New York Times. His appointment came as a surprise to many in the art world and may signal a desire for a punchier, more direct leader at a currently sleepy institution. "Rocco does not defer his opinions," said a fellow theater producer.

Landesman met Barack Obama before his presidential bid, and he made major contributions to his campaign. The president of the Jujamcyn chain of theaters and a horse-racing fan, he has a history of taking chances on financially risky productions, such as the hit musical Jelly's Last Jam. Tony Kushner, the Pulitzer-winning playwright of Angels, was effusive in his praise: "It’s potentially the best news the arts community in the United States has had since the birth of Walt Whitman."